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USC basketball: Trojans Athletic Director Pat Haden nearly beats forward Alex Stepheson in a free-throw contest

February 1, 2011 |  8:30 pm

USC senior forward Alex Stepheson is not what you'd call a good free-throw shooter.

A Mark Price (career 90.4% free-throw shooter) he is not.

Nor is he Ray Allen (89.3%) or Reggie Miller (88.8%).

At times, he's barely as good as Shaquille O'Neal (52.7%), which explains why opposing teams foul Stepheson at the end of close games. 

Stepheson, who has shot below 50% from the line in each of the last three seasons, including 48.5% (33 for 68) this season, is reminded of this particular shortcoming by the sporting press quite often.

But before practice Tuesday the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Los Angeles native entered into a situation in which whatever credibility he had was all at the line, which is the last place he should have put it. 

Then, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, a former college and NFL quarterback, engaged Stepheson in a free-throw contest. Stepheson accepted.

Haden took off his jacket and strolled to the free-throw line wearing dress shoes, slacks, a button-up shirt and a tie. He proved that basketball was not his specialty, missing his first few shots badly, but Stepheson missed his first few attempts, too, perhaps succumbing to the pressure as everyone in the Galen Center had stopped to watch the matchup of futility. 

Eventually, Haden hit two in a row, but Stepheson then hit three in a row and won by that margin.

After practice, Stepheson was glowing, as if he'd just won the Super Bowl.

"I was kind of nervous," he said. "I didn't want to play him to begin with. I knew he was going to make a couple. But I stepped up to the challenge nicely, got the win. I came through under pressure. I want to say it was a landslide, but I think that might be a lie." 

-- Baxter Holmes